SHAFAQNA – Jeffrey Salkin, a rights activist in the US asked Shafaqna, “Can someone help me here: why is it necessary to have anti-Muslim messages on New York City buses?”
Referring to a new campaign spearheaded by Pamela Geller, a well-known lobbyist for AIPAC, Salkin challenged the morality and legality of such vicious hate campaign against Muslims.
“We are going to be seeing — signs proclaiming that Muslims believe that “killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” In the words of Pamela Geller, the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), the group that purchased the ads: “This is a triumph for liberty and free speech,” he said.
“Actually, it is a triumph for hatred — gratuitous hatred of Muslims,” he added.
Geller’s organization, Stop Islamization of America, operates under the aegis of AFDI. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified Geller’s group as an extremist group. The Anti-Defamation League and Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism have condemned her actions.
First, let’s object to anyone oversimplifying a religious tradition, and reducing it to one verse. Imagine if someone put ads on New York City buses, claiming that the essence of Judaism is the desire to kill rebellious children — all based on an accurate, but historically irrelevant, verse from Deuteronomy. The anti-Muslim ads oversimplify and vulgarize the subtleties of Islam.
Second, what does Ms. Geller hope to achieve? Does she want to teach the average New Yorker what Islam thinks about the Jews? What possible good can that do? Publicizing vile anti-Semitic beliefs might actually encourage anti-Semitism. Broadcast this crap enough, and sure enough — someone will say that “hey, maybe they got a point about the Jews.” Hatred is always contagious.
Or, perhaps Geller hopes that these ads will inspire much-needed reform in Islam. Right. As if an extremist imam will see one of those ads and say: “Wow. We should fix Islam. Right now, before lunch.” Yes, Islam needs reform — but that reform must happen from within. You would be amazed at how ineffective bus ads will be in this effort.
So, that leaves the possibility that the purpose of those ads is to encourage hatred of Islam and Muslims.
Time to talk about that ubiquitous term “Islamophobia.” Many people use it as a way of simply silencing any criticism of the radical manifestations of Islam. But there are people who simply hate Islam — in any form — and spend their time painting all Islam with the same demonic brush.
“Time to say it again: not all American Muslims are radical. Not only that — as I have discovered, when American Jews sit down with their Muslim counterparts, and they study together (I have taught Jews, Muslims and Christians together about their joint origins in Abraham), sparks of holiness can actually fly around the room. And when we talk with Muslims, let’s remember that we will never and should never agree on everything. It’s like dialogue with Christians.
If anyone in Jewish history had reason to hate Muslims and Islam, it would have been Moses Maimonides, there medieval Jewish thinker, and perhaps the best thinker that Judaism has ever produced. (The two best recent books on Maimonides are by Moshe Halbertal and Micah Goodman)
Maimonides was born in Cordoba, Spain, but he and his family had to flee from the Almohads, a radical Muslim movement. The word Almohad means “those who make God one.” They had a horrific way of advertising the unity of God. The Almohads confiscated estates, kidnapped Jewish children to raise them as Muslims, and required Jews to wear special clothing. They wanted to create an empire with no Jews or Christians.
Think of them as ISIS — the beta version.
And yet, Maimonides studied and quoted Muslim philosophy. He hailed Islam as a great monotheistic religion. He said: “These Ishmaelites [Muslims] are in no way idolaters. It has already been excised from their mouths and hearts, and they properly regard God as a unity with no exception.”
Some people say that Maimonides temporarily lived as a Muslim: his son, Abraham, had a deep affinity for Sufi mysticism. And, to be sure, some of Maimonides’ less admirable legal rulings, like those that demeaned women, were Muslim imports.
Those ads will encourage hatred of Islam and Muslims,” stressed the activist.
Things are bad enough between Islam and the world. Why make things worse?